Trying Mandolin: How I found myself in a weird place last Friday night

So… Let’s talk about last Friday night.

On any given Friday, you can usually find me in one of two places:

  • Curled up in bed catching up on my Netflix shows, or…
  • Out at bar with my friends

Fridays are a great time to get out of my workweek headspace. There are no emails or to-do lists that I need to worry about in that moment. When I finally get some much-needed downtime, I want to use it to its fullest potential.

Which is why it’s so strange that I’ve allowed myself to fall into these Friday night routines.

It’s strange how every week, I think I’m allowing myself the time to be spontaneous, to listen to my gut, to not follow a prescribed schedule… and yet by limiting myself to these two activities, I’m actually more constrained. Friday nights are always one of two things: bar or bed. Neither one actually makes life more exciting. And come Monday, when my coworkers asked me what I did over the weekend, I say “Well…nothing.”

But last Friday night was different. Last Friday night, I finally reached a breaking point and decided to go somewhere else. Just me. I needed some other option to get me out of my bar/bed rut. I was determined!

So that’s how, last Friday night, I found myself at a Mandolin concert.


Yes. That mandolin.

And yeah. I know it sounds like I time-traveled back to Renaissance Italy and listened to a guy in pantaloons serenade me on the plucky instrument. Hell, I didn’t even know that professional mandolin players still existed. Surely nothing has been written for the mandolin since the 17th century, and sure enough the program consisted of almost entirely Baroque music by Bach and Vivaldi. The audience mostly had gray hair (and not because they’re some of those trendy Millennials who dye it that color)

I’m sure that there are a million things I could have done that night between bar, bed, and Bach, but I learned some important things.

  1. Taking Small Risks is worth it

How many times do I stop myself from going to some cool event just because I’m not sure that I’ll like it. Sure, I’d love to give that new band or that artsy movie a try… but what if I end up hating it? Isn’t that a waste? This is especially true if the cost of the ticket is steep. Why should I spend money on something I’m not going to like? As a young 20-something on a budget, it’s easy to be afraid by the monetary and time costs of a new thing. It’s much easier to engage with low-cost, low-commitment activities like watching Netflix.

But this also closes me off to so much of the world. Taking risks and finding new things to wonder at is part of the joy of living in a big city and cultural hub. It’s a privilege to have access to this kind of art, and a shame to waste the opportunities to see it. Every time I try something new, I’m learning more about my city and about my own tastes, even if I hate it.

Which… by the way, I did not! It was actually kind of an amazing concert.


2. Sometimes, the best practice is going alone.

So… I didn’t even ask my friends to come to this one. Perhaps I should have. But I was worried they wouldn’t be on board with my whole “trying-something-new-even-if-it-is-a-little-weird” initiative. I this was something I had to do on my own just to get out of my own box. Studies have shown that young people more and more rely on the endorsement of certain activities from friends or people they know. It’s not enough to see an advertisement or an event on Facebook. We want our friends to tell us what they like because we want to be where our friends are.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Trying something new is a much different experience if you’re relying just on your own comfort and not worrying about someone else’s. What’s more, even if you enjoyed the experience, it’s easy to be deterred by friends who didn’t enjoy it as much. Going it alone allowed me to form my own thoughts and opinions in real time and I was able to report back to my friends in full confidence. And now that I’ve done so… maybe I can convince some of them to join me on my next wacky scheme.


3) The weirder the better

Have you ever gone to that “super-secret” pop up bar that was actually packed wall-to-wall? Or gone to see a concert from that “underground” indie band that had a single in the top-40 the next summer? It turns out that even when we think we’re trying something new, it’s often marketed in the same way to everyone in the same demographic. This means that our view of what is possible is still really limited to a handful of activities that are “supposed” to be interesting to twenty-somethings. And everything that falls outside of that sphere is seen as “weird.” But it’s also where lots of people are doing amazing things, in addition to professional mandolin playing. Swing Dancing! Taxidermy! Experimental puppetry! I don’t know if that really exists but it would be cool!

Not only is it worth it to discover new hobbies or interests, but also new audiences. It’s good to get out of your own bubble. Maybe you’ll even make friends! I mean… I won’t because I have a really strong aversion to talking to strangers… but even so, I appreciate observing how other people live. I appreciate seeing how other people dress or talk or gather together. It reminds me that there isn’t just one way to live. And that makes me feel a lot less stuck in my rut.


So yeah, I spent last Friday night listening to the mandolin.

And I’d do it again.

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